By LISA WHALEY
Loki, arguably Jonesborough’s most famous K-9, may be retiring this fall.
And when he does, both former and current handlers agree, it will be the close of a most distinguished career.
“When we were in handler school, I was the only one there with a lab,” recalled Major Jamie Aistrop, Loki’s first partner when he came to the Jonesborough police force. “Everyone else had Germain Shepherds and Belgian Malinois,. .. Loki, from the get-go, picked up everything quicker than any dog in the class.
“The trainer at the time said, ‘He is going to be one of the best dogs around.”
Loki, a chocolate lab with a warm, rambunctious spirit and wide-open nature, reported to his first 12-hour shift with the Jonesborough Police Department on Dec. 6, 2013, and has never slowed down.
“I would put him — and his current handler, Dustin Fleming, would say the same thing — I would put him up against any dog around here as far as his nose work,” Aistrop said. I wish there was a way— and Chief (Ron) Street and I talked about this the other day — to give an exact number of deployments over his career. I think it would easily be over 1,000.”
And when it comes to career high points, “I imagine the high point would be the amount of drugs he has gotten off the street.”
Loki is part of the department’s four-dog K-9 unit. That number allows for a K-9 to be available for each shift. The town’s K-9 unit is supported by Paws in Blue, the local nonprofit organization that helps not only pay for the trained dogs, which can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 each, but also for their upkeep.
A special “Bar-B-Q” Dinner Fundraiser for Paws in Blue will be held Saturday, April 10, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the International Storytelling Center as one way to pay for Loki’s replacement, as well as the dogs’ ongoing care.
As for Loki, he continues to remain a favorite with department and community.
“He has pretty much met every child who has been through Jonesborough schools,” Aistrop said.
Officer Dustin Fleming, Loki’s current partner, has been with the lab a little over three years and hopes to adopt him after retirement.
“He comes to work with me every day. He comes home with me every day,” Fleming said. “He is with me pretty much 24-7.
“He’s more than a dog. He is my partner. I rely on him.”
Loki is also very good at what he does, Fleming added.
“He is fantastic at what he does, narcotics and tracking,” he said. “He has a fantastic nose on him.”
But Loki’s years are starting to catch up with him, Fleming said.
“He is 10 years old this year,” he said. “He has been with the department eight years. But unfortunately, his age is starting to show.”
It is time, Fleming believes, for Loki to get to spend a little time on easy street.
“He has worked hard. I think he deserves what years he can to enjoy himself as a dog.”
Tickets for the Paws in Blue benefit barbecue set for April 10 are $20 for adults and $12 for children (12 and under) in advance and will be $25 for adults and $12 for children at the door. Those interested in purchasing a reserved table for 6 or less, with dinner, can purchase a table in advance for $120. Advanced tickets are on sale now at Jonesborough.com/tickets or by calling the Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.
Donations can also be made by visiting jonesboroughtn.org/government/make-a-donation or by calling (423) 753-1010. Proceeds will go to Jonesborough Police Department obtain and support their police K-9’s.
For more information on Paws in Blue visit them on Facebook or contact Ruth Verhegge at (423) 794-0237.